If the North American railroads electrified.........

Kurt Moose Jul 29, 2017

  1. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Agreed! The PRR's electrification was truly extensive and extraordinary. The map below shows it in all of its glory, including the freight cutoff between Trenton and Harrisburg, the "Port Road" between Harrisburg and Perryville, MD and the massive freight bypass between Parkersburg and Harrisburg crossing over the Susquehanna south of Wago Jct.. So sad to see so many lines on this map shorn of wire.

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    Last edited: Aug 4, 2017
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  2. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    Another thing to think about, the Pacific Electric didn't electrify freight only lines, even when they connected to electric lines.

    In the 1950's, the PE leased diesel locomotives, and ran them under the wires. As soon as passenger service was discontinued, they pulled down the lines.
     
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  3. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Interesting detail on the PE bremner. Your post recalled a local road in my region, the Piedmont & Northern, The Great Electrified System Of The South. The P&N operated two disconnected segments in NC and SC totaling near 130 Miles, both built to steam road standards and electrified with 1500 VDC. P&N dropped passenger service in '51 and took the wire down a few years later. With the textile industry in decline, it was acquired by the SCL in '69. A few short line segments still remain, along with a number of its tile-roofed depots.

    [Photo Credit - U. of North Carolina Charlotte]
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    Last edited: Aug 4, 2017
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  4. Suzie

    Suzie TrainBoard Member

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    The advantage of electric in the early days was higher availability and high power for mountain climbing. It all comes around again and the advantage of electric is in high power again - 8000HP from an 80 tonne 4-axle unit that does not need refuelling makes high power and high speed (rather than mountain climbing) possible with electric that otherwise would require a big consist of diesels.

    The power transmission costs of high voltage AC are not huge - but the cost of stringing up the wire and the more expensive electric locos is a big investment that modern railroads are loathe to make unless they have a rock solid business case and see a return on the investment quick enough to please the shareholders. I like to think that we might soon see a busy chunk of the UP electrified to meet increasing demand - an electrified railroad can make much better use of the track with tighter headways and faster trains, especially when the cost of carrying around the extra power required for a fast getaway or a steep climb is not the same as hooking on an extra pair of centennials!
     
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  5. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Also, electrics were far better in temperature extremes such as winter. Unlike steam, they did not lose power as temperatures fell. In fact, the free natural cooling actually helped.
     
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  6. dti406

    dti406 TrainBoard Member

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    Except when the fine snow went through the carbody filters and shorted out the motors on the GG1's one winter!
     
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  7. dti406

    dti406 TrainBoard Member

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  8. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the link Rick. Karl Zimmerman's The Remarkable GG-1 (c. 1977) has an accounting of this event from 1958. The snow was of such a fine nature that it permeated the G's French-linen filters and it crippled nearly the entire roster of Gs. At the peak, the PRR was able to field only a third of its New York/Philly trains. The P5's air intakes were higher, so didn't suffer from the malady and these were deployed throughout the territory to pull the Gs which kept their steam generators running to heat the trains. The PRR also brought in as many diesels as it could muster to assist.

    The GG-1's underwent air intake modifications which were successful, but their design brought a touch of dismay to purists who valued the GG-1's traditional appearance. [Photo is not mine, photographer not identified]

    GG-1.JPG
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  9. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Ah. So this event is why that feature is seen..... (y)
     
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  10. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    I recently saw this article in the NYT on the Hydro Electric power in the PNW
    One has to wonder which of these were Milwaukee or Great Northern
    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive...n=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection
    [​IMG]
     
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  11. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    The answer is possibly one. That map needs to be labeled.

    I believe the MILW had two in Montana. One near Great Falls, the other, if I recall correctly near Thompson Falls. Both were sold off to a private owner. Only the latter might show on that map. They had none in Washington- They bought their electricity the entire time.

    The GN had one. It was west-northwest of Wenatchee, on that namesake river. Long since abandoned.

    Funny how that page starts out talking of going down river, but it sure looks to be going upstream.
     
  12. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, I think that CR's study to electrify west to Pittsburgh was the last one made. In a total reversal, CR then proceeded to pull down wire on many lines.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2017
  13. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Even after 50+ years in this hobby, I learn something each day. So how's come that I didn't know the Great Northern operated an electrified section of line? I was leafing through my copy of America's Colorful Railroads by Don Ball and saw a great 1955 color photo of GN Z-1 boxcabs like this one (not my photo.) Neat stuff.

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    The GN electrification was a mountain helper district, with long tunnels. Steamers in long tunnels equals trouble.... As I recall, they dropped those wires circa Spring, of 1956. The tunnel had then been fitted with fans to blow exhaust fumes clear. Which those fans do a rather inefficient job. My last trip through, was late summer of 2008 aboard the eastward EB. It did not take long, once inside (2nd) Cascade Tunnel, to begin smelling diesel fumes..... Bleh.
     
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  15. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I'm reading a book on the N&W's Pocahontas Division which electrified segments beginning in the teens. The dozen Class LC-1 boxcab electric locomotives delivered by Baldwin-Westinghouse delivered abundant speed and horsepower, but frame cracks soon appeared which caused pinion misalignments, worn gears and even cracks in the transformer casings which caused oil to drain, eventually on to the rail. Given the unknowns of the nascent technology, Baldwin-Westinghouse failed to properly calculate the terrific forces the units would bear in heavy coal service and after negotiation, B-W and the N&W split the cost to strengthen the frames and repair the damaged components.

    [​IMG]
     
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  16. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    The MILW had B-W motors, which also suffered frame issues. Their shop people out west were able to repair and reinforce them such that they lasted a long time.
     
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  17. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    As I continue reading my N&W Pocahantas Division book, I read that when the second generation of electric locomotives were ordered a decade later in the mid-1920s, the purchase order went to Alco-Westinghouse. The new C2 class was heavier, a third more powerful and had frames properly engineered for their assignment. Much had been learned.
     
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  18. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    ALCO-Westinghouse? That doesn't even sound right.

    Too bad they didn't go back to working with Westinghouse in the mid-1950s, when GE made it obvious they were going to renege on their agreement and compete with ALCO. If they had been buying their electrical gear from someone other than their direct competitor, ALCO might have survived the 1960s. Instead they messed around and let Westinghouse get out of the business.
     
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  19. mmi16

    mmi16 TrainBoard Member

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    Electrification has a tremendous 'up front cost' to construct catenary, power stations, modify signal systems to operate properly in the vicinity of high voltage electricity and purchase locomotives. Once all the money has been fronted - there is a very long payback period - longer that profitable companies want to invest in.
     
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  20. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

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    Being from Italy, i can not but say good things on electrics. Coal and later oil less Italy was one of the first natiions to build a significant network of elctric lines. At the beginning it was 3.6KV three phase AC with a very complex twin wire catenary, in the twenties they phased up 3KV DC, but the old AC lasted until 1974.
    Here some pictures of the early system, please note the twin wires...
    These were the only electrics in Italy to use rods, the later 3KV did not
    [​IMG]

    On this you can have a glimpse on how complex was the twin wiring over turnouts.... engineers had often to lower the trolley over turnouts at speed.
    Max speed was anyway restricted to 100kph/60mph.
    [​IMG]

    Here electric is the norm, wires have been stranding to most of the network, leaving only some little used branches to Diesels (the fact that the last road diesel has been bought in the 80s tells a long story), mostly DMUs.
     
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